The concept of ‘domicile’ is notoriously difficult to pin down, but there is no doubting its central importance to many aspects of the law. A case on point concerned a personal injury claim brought by a young man who was attending a wedding in Poland when he was injured in a road traffic accident.
Following the accident, proceedings were lodged on his behalf against Polish motor insurers. They admitted liability for the accident but argued that he was not domiciled in England. On that basis, they asserted that the English courts had no jurisdiction to award him compensation. That argument was rejected by a judge who opened the way for his case to be heard in this country.
Ruling on the insurers’ challenge to that outcome, the High Court noted that the man was born abroad. However, he and his family came to England when he was aged one and he was educated here. He was a highly paid merchant banker in the City of London before ill health interrupted his career. He had since spent lengthy periods abroad undergoing medical treatment. When his claim was issued, he had moved out of his flat in London and was living in Germany, where he was being treated for injuries suffered in the accident.
Rejecting the appeal, the Court noted that the question of domicile involves more than mere consideration of where a person is living when a claim is issued. A broad assessment is required of an individual’s intentions and settled pattern of life. The man was a British citizen, who grew up, was educated and worked in England. His network of friends was in this country; his benefits were paid here and he kept his clothes and personal effects in his own room at his parents’ home.
Having spent the vast majority of his life in England, he was established, settled and bedded down in this country. His presence in Germany was not wholly voluntary in that it was necessitated solely by the injuries he suffered in the accident. But for his health difficulties and travel restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, he would have returned to England more frequently.